Captain Krystyna Chojnowska-Liskiewicz, the Polish sailor and marine engineer who became the first woman to circumnavigate the globe solo, has died at her home at the age of 84.

Eight bells: Krystyna Chojnowska-Liskiewicz

Born in 1936 in Warsaw, Captain Chojnowska-Liskiewicz began sailing in childhood. She moved to Gdańsk to study shipbuilding at Gdańsk University of Technology, where she met her husband to be, Wacław Liskiewicz and began serious sea sailing, receiving her captain’s licence at the age of 30.

At a time when Poland lay behind the Iron Curtain and was under the control of Moscow, travel was no simple matter and red tape connected with leaving the Eastern Bloc hindered the careers of many sailors. Nevertheless, Captain Chojnowska-Liskiewicz was able to join several ships on international passages, travelling to the likes of Norway and Scotland. Perhaps it was her skill as a skipper that helped her overcome the bureaucracy of communist-era Poland and win selection by the Polish Sailing Association to skipper the yacht Mazurek solo, around the world, leaving Las Palmas on March 28, 1976.

On board Mazurek, a Conrad 32 sloop built in Poland by a team headed by her husband, Captain Chojnowska-Liskiewicz headed west, via the Caribbean and the Panama Canal into the Pacific Ocean. From there, her route took her via Tahiti, Fiji and Australia, the across the Indian Ocean via Mauritius and round the Cape of Good Hope. Shaping her course north, Captain Chojnowska-Liskiewicz arrived back in the Canary Islands on April 21 1978. She had covered more than 31000 nautical miles in 401 days to enter the record books as the first woman to sail single-handed around the world.

She was honoured with the Order of Polonia Restituta Commander’s Cross for her achievement, and remains today a hero of Polish sailing history. She was described by the Polish sailing portal Ż as “our first lady of the ocean”.

Captain Chojnowska-Liskiewicz’s death was announced by the Academic Maritime Club of Gdańsk, of which she had been a member for more than 60 years.

Captain Krystyna Chojnowska-Liskiewicz: born July 15, 1936, died June 13 2021.

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